Wimbledon is the last remaining greyhound stadium in London, following the closure of sites at Wembley, White City and Walthamstow, and despite its somewhat neglected state it is generally regarded as the premier greyhound racing stadium in England.
Plough Lane annually hosts the following prestigious events: The English Greyhound Derby, The Puppy Derby and the classic St Leger race.
But in recent years the site has been allowed to fall into disrepair by its owners The Greyhound Racing Association (GRA Ltd), which is owned by venture capitalists Risk Capital Partners Ltd.
Housing developers Galliard Homes have a financial interest in Risk Capital Partners, which has made a habit in recent years of buying up dog racing stadia, failing to invest in their facilities and then selling off the land for housing – with the intention of it being developed, in the case of Wimbledon, by (surprise!) Galliard Homes. Which explains why AFC Wimbledon’s partners in the Plough Lane redevelopment project are GRA and Galliard Homes.
Essentially, GRA wants to release cash from the site, Galliard wants to make a stash of money from developing it into housing, and community club AFC Wimbledon wants a new stadium. Read about their plans here
While buildings at Wimbledon’s historic stadium have deteriorated, prize money for dog racing has also been cut by the GRA. The greyhound community has been vocal in protesting against this state of affairs, starting a petition to keep the dog racing stadium open, and protesting in large numbers at the General London Assembly.
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The general message is: just because the current owners of the Plough Lane stadium have no interest in keeping greyhound racing going on the site, there is a future for the sport if it were redeveloped in the right way.
So who does have an interest in revamping the Plough Lane Greyhound Stadium? Irish businessman and former chairman of the Irish Greyhound Board Paschal Taggart is keen to buy the site, demolish the existing stadium and replace it with a smart, new, state-of-the-art greyhound racing stadium.
Wimbledon Park Residents Association came out in favour of these plans over the AFC Wimbledon/Galliard plans after carrying out a survey of people living in the neighbourhood who were overwhelming against the football plans on grounds of traffic, transport issues, flooding and nuisance.
Taggart says his plans (which are being presented via the company Hume Consulting) include better provision against flooding and would also lead to fewer traffic and transport problems because of the smaller numbers involved (AFC Wimbledon wants to build a football stadium ultimately seating up to 20,000).
What about Taggart’s credentials? Greyhound owner and former barrister Diane Mclean is coordinating the ‘We Want Wimbledon’ campaign to keep the Plough Lane Greyhound Stadium open. She told the Racing Post: “Paschal Taggart, a former ten-year chairman of the state-controlled Irish Greyhound Board, has been involved in the greyhound industry for the best part of 35 years and helped grow the industry in Ireland with the development of new stadia in conjunction with mixed residential and commercial units, and so we can safely say that his track record of success is second to none.”